In this political climate, how do you activate change within your organization? At Critical Correspondence, we’ve asked our beloved institutional administrators to respond to the question in a new series, Arts Administrators: What Is your How? We’ve asked our friends from our Global Practice Sharing (GPS) networks in the Balkans, to answer the same questions as they pertain to their own countries and political strife. This month, we offer a response from Iskra Sukarova from Macedonia, in an effort to gain some insight on a struggle that exists outside of our New York arts scope by listening to artist networks near and far.
- Mariana Valencia, co-editor
How do the politics in the Republic of Macedonia affect you on a personal level?
Iskra Sukarova: The political situation in the Republic of Macedonia affects the population deeply and on many levels. Our daily life has a political parallel that accompanies our everyday routine. We have to be politically engaged even if we stand without any power to change anything as citizens. Our citizen’s rights are still not prioritized on a governmental level and because politics are such a daily concern for each Macedonian citizen, I could say that we are politically over-engaged or taxed by this symptom. We collectively feel a burden of this constant responsibility to solve our political issues. There are politicians that have been elected to take care of us, yet they still don’t. Our distrust in politicians resides in years of evident corruption in the political milieu. We are all deeply affected by political stagnation and we cannot maintain or gain stability within our daily lives. This political instability in the Republic of Macedonia is at its peak. We still are unable, for example, to establish or elect a new government since the December 2016 elections.
How does this affect you on an organizational level?
IS: Politically, art has been the last priority in our country, so we need to advocate for change in the system. There’s a struggle to consider the arts as a valuable branch of society here and so to develop a contemporary dance scene, has always been a battle. The contemporary dance scene has had to become an independent field because without cultural policies in place to grant us funds, we’re constantly having to innovate and attempt to change the system from within and in independent ways.
How has this thought changed for you through time?
IS: Our country’s politics have never changed, they’ve actually just aged. It seems that as I grow older, I’ve mostly been able to assure myself that nothing has really changed. I’m in constant question of our rights as a citizen of this kind of “democracy.” I still struggle to realize my goals, after so many years of dedicated work in the field of dance; the system has not acknowledged my need, which is disappointing. I don’t see change on the horizon even after so many years of investing my time into the cultural scene here. After being a soloist in the Macedonian Opera and Ballet for over two decades, I’ve developed parallel projects and collaborations in contemporary dance in the R. Macedonia and still there is a deficit in this growth. For the last six years I’ve been a full time professor as part of the State’s Music Faculty (this is the first study program for dance in our country) where there is a department for dance pedagogy. For the first time the students can study dance on a BA level here. My hope is that the new generations of this student body, can forge a new development of the dance scene in R. Macedonia. Unfortunately they will have to struggle for the changes to happen, since our country is still “under political construction”. I always tell them to think of the bigger picture.
Where are you with it right now?
IS: I remember being 20 years old and feeling political insecurity in my country, and now I am 44 years old and believe me, nothing has changed it has just gotten worse— by the way, I’m an optimist— I have stayed in my country to develop the contemporary dance scene, as one of the pioneers R. Macedonian pioneers in this field. I could have left a long time ago as many other young talented people did. I was 20 years old when the separation of Yugoslavia happened and the R. Macedonia was a newly established country. I feel that I’ve aged, but despite this it seems like the political situation never matured, it never offered us stability. I was younger and I was really focused on things that fulfilled me— dance and choreography, and also developing projects on a local level, as well as projects on a regional and international level. I have managed to do this work, which has kept my mind open and I still believe that through art, I can communicate with other cultures. I will always believe and fight for my country to support contemporary dance because it’s important for the young talented people in the field that want to live and work here.
How are you thinking about it for the future?
IS: In recent years, the extremely right wing party has been ruling, which is absolutely devastating for the prosperity of our country. I stayed in my country hoping that at least we can establish some political stability which would then definitely affect the economical and social climate. I don’t want to sound pessimistic because our country is small and so beautiful and I try to hope for the best. It seems democracy has died a long time ago in the political context here in the R. Macedonia. My only hope is that this changes soon, because as it seems more and more talented people are drifting out of the country since they do not feel they can realize their dreams and goals here.